2 Ways to Help Companies Level Up Climate Impact
The fact of the matter is that society won’t be able to limit warming to 1.5°C or 2°C without strong action from businesses.
Thankfully, we all work in these businesses or know someone who does. Therefore, these businesses are in our sphere of influence. We can, and must, find the time and courage to help make them climate-positive as soon as possible.
What does this mean?
At the moment it means helping companies to raise their ambition of climate action. And to accelerate their rate of progress towards these goals.
Ultimately, climate-positive companies will not only achieve net-zero emissions within their operations and supply chains but go above and beyond by helping to eliminate emissions elsewhere or by removing existing emissions from the atmosphere. If they do this, they’ll have gone from being a part of the problem to a part of the solution.
Two big steps businesses can take
- Commit to science-based emission reduction targets.
- Advocate for science-based climate policies from the government.
Commit to Science-Based Emission Reduction Targets
Science-based targets specify how much and how quickly a company needs to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to align with the Paris Agreement.
There is an excellent organization called the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) which is standardizing, facilitating, and accelerating corporate action on climate by removing technical barriers and sharing industry-specific best practices.
So far 850+ companies across 45+ sectors with $10 trillion in market cap have set targets through SBTi. Many are proving that science-based climate action goes hand-in-hand with business success (driving innovation, boosting investor confidence, reducing regulatory uncertainty, gaining a competitive advantage).
I learned more about their strategy and progress after speaking with them recently.
“Part of the theory of change is that once you hit a tipping point in a particular sector or geography, then there tends to be accelerating change. What we’re finding is that once you get about 20% of companies in a sector – there’s a lot of pressure on the remaining companies to act and that peer pressure is often much stronger than the Paris Agreement, public campaigns, or even policy in some countries. So this is really the way to get those companies to change their practices.” – Nate Alden
I’d highly encourage you to look into this initiative and share it with co-workers or anybody who may be interested. Maybe the best place to start is seeing which competitors from your sector are setting science-based targets, and why this is a smart move for your company.
Advocate for Science-Based Climate Policies from Government
Democracy is kind of broken…in the US at least. Politicians listen to corporations, special interests, and wealthy donors more than their own constituents. (Some videos on why democracy is broken in the US, how corruption is legal, and what we can do to fix it in case you’re interested.)
Fossil fuel and transportation corporations, utilities, and affiliated trade associations spent nearly $2 billion in climate lobbying from 2000 to 2016. It looks like they did this in waves to stop climate action whenever it was proposed. They’re outspending renewable energy and environmental organizations by more than 10 to 1.
Because of this, it’s extremely important that other corporations (who, by the way, rely on a stable climate for their business to prosper) step up their climate policy advocacy in the halls of power. There are many organizations that are doing a good job on sustainability within their company’s walls but are neglecting to use what is arguably their most powerful tool: lobbying & advocacy. (Here’s a good podcast that touches on this.)
“It’s time to raise the bar for leadership to include climate policy advocacy. We’ve been really encouraged by the number of companies that are setting ambitious climate goals committing to using 100% renewable energy, working through their whole supply chain to drive down emissions – and all of those actions are really important. But unless we also have businesses using their voices to advance policies that will drive down emissions at speed and at scale, we’re not going to get to net-zero by 2050 which is the goal the IPCC says we have to achieve to limit the worst impacts of climate change.” – Victoria Mills, Managing Director at EDF (video)
In a recent New York Times ad, 11 non-profits wrote an open letter to CEOs, asking them to:
- Advocate for policies at the national, subnational and/or sectoral level that are consistent with achieving net-zero emissions by 2050;
- Align their trade associations’ climate policy advocacy to be consistent with the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050; and
- Allocate advocacy spending to advance climate policies, not obstruct them.
That’s what we need a lot more of.
Here’s where we stand today.
“The 50 corporations shaping the global climate agenda”
The companies in the top right quadrant are doing the most to advocate for government action on climate.
The other three quadrants are either actively opposing climate action or could be doing a lot more with their political influence if they chose to.
It’s also worth being mindful of trade associations that represent companies (which this analysis does) because “90% of the world’s largest industrial companies retain links to trade groups opposing climate policy.” (Influence Map)
So if you work at one of these companies or know someone who does, share this info and think about how you might start pushing the company into the upper right quadrant.
Again, as an employee, you could start sharing information on these two ideas and organizing co-workers to take steps towards them.
Or as a friend or family member of someone who works at a big (or smaller) corporation, you can encourage them to look into these ideas.
Food for thought anyway!
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